Review

Stéphane Roy, Computer Music Journal, no 22:2, 1 juin 1998

Once upon a time, in a deep, dark forest… Forêt profonde is an acousmatic drama in thirteen sections hased on The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. Those appatrently innocent stories that bathed our childhood are really trees that hide from us the mysterious roots of the forest the deep roots of the soul that Francis Dhomont probes in his psychoanalytical reading of fairy tales. This composition superimposes a rich counterpoint of voices, texts, and languages. At the heart of its gripping sonic material, alternatively mysterious or reassuring, like a fairy tale, we hear the thirteen episodes march by, keeping us spellbound.

Francis Dhomont plays with archetypes in Forêt profonde, not only the ones brought up by the narration (death, happiness, courage, fear, and so on), but also those that are invoked by the underlying sounds. Thus, the archetype of comforting and appeasement, suggested by tender lullabies, is brusquely broken by the tragic and anguished character of unstable sonic morphologies. Like the fairy tales themselves, this piece enchants and bewitches; certain enigmatic passages show to what extent the art of sounds is able to explain the unexplainable. “What’s happening?” murmurs a strange, anxious young voice at the beginning. An undeniable reality hides behind the words that then reassure the child “‘tis nothing…’tis nothing, dear…try to sleep”—soft comfort which, like the happy endings of the fairy tales, turns us aside from the dark morbidity that hangs over our existence.

If these tow works from a diptych, it is because deep in each forest there burns a black sun. Depth and darkness, linked in a single semantic universe, join together in this Cycle des profondeurs to evoke an existentialist anguish that is our lot to share. While Sous le regard d’un soleil noir was inspired by an affliction that turns toward the pathological, Forêt profonde touches on the imaginary world of childhood and the hidden face of the fairy tales that have peopled it. In both, text and music are so well integrated, each extending its resonanees into the other, that it is impossible to disassociate them. On many occasions, we find a narrator giving “clinical” commentary, but no such dryness is sufficient to disturb the dramatic trajectory of the musical discourse. Rather these commentaries serve to articulate the evolution of the drama, providing clues to the listener for understanding the meanings of the symbols and archetypes deployed in the music.

Both discs are beautifully packaged in newly designed cardboard cases. The well-documented, bilingual booklets run 48 pages each, and include a listing of all citations and bibliographical references, and a detailed chronology of Mr. Dhomont’s works from 1972.

Like the fairy tales themselves, this piece enchants and bewitches; certain enigmatic passages show to what extent the art of sounds is able to explain the unexplainable.

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